It’s difficult to imagine now, but there was a time when Tom Cruise was not one of the biggest stars in the world. Back in 1983, Cruise was an up-and-coming actor trying to make his way in Hollywood. He was cast in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders alongside a bunch of other unknown actors who would go on to become big names in the industry. One of the actors was Rob Lowe, who revealed in a recent interview with Kelly Clarkson on her Youtube show how deadly serious Coppola was about getting authentic performances from his actors.
“When we were doing The Outsiders we’re 18 and 19 years old. It’s Francis Ford Coppola, the director who directed The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, and the most intense kind of director imaginable. And in his effort to make us more authentic as greasers, as tough Tulsa wrong-side-of-the-tracks guys, he found a bunch of actual different Greasers who were now grown-up adults. And made us go spend the night and live with them.”
Apart from the generally dubious practice of sleeping in the houses of people you have never met before, it was clear to Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise as they hunkered down in the basement of their unexpected host’s home for the night that Coppola had not done his due diligence before sending them on their merry way.
“They came to us at rehearsal and like ‘Ok so we’re gonna divide you up. Rob, Tom you guys are gonna go stay with Bill and Sandy Webber. And we just went to their little house and had dinner. Tom and I ended up in the basement on two cots. And we’re like ‘We don’t know these people.’ I mean, who vetted them? Do you think Francis Ford Coppola spent a lot of time vetting these people? I can tell you he didn’t.”
It is unclear how much of Cruise and Lowe’s performance in the film was eventually informed by their presumably awkward dinner conversations and crashing in the basement of the house belonging to their impromptu hosts for the night. But the experience ultimately turned out to be a net positive, since The Outsiders went on to become a critical and commercial hit, and boosted the careers of the lead cast of C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, and Leif Garrett.
Most of the actors went on to leading roles in film and television, proving that despite his questionable tactics for getting the right performances out of his actors, Coppola had an unquestionable eye for talent.
Lowe told the story regarding his experience with Cruise in connection to his promotions for his recently launched podcast Literally! With Rob Lowe. Through the audio series, the actor looks back on his long and varied career in Hollywood and reminisces about the various experiences he has had working on film and television projects over several decades.